Local News

Coal ash sign causes controversy at Sanford coffee shop

Posted February 7, 2015 9:24 p.m. EST
Updated February 8, 2015 12:58 a.m. EST

— Employees of a Sanford coffee shop say they were threatened by the former chairman of the state's Mining and Energy Commission after placing a sign in their window protesting the proposed storage of coal ash in Lee County. 

According to employees, former MEC chairman and current member Jim Womack made a visit to Kathy's Java Express last week and advised them to take down the sign.

Josie Seeley, who works at the shop, said Womack came in and asked to speak to Kathy Addison, the owner.

"He just came to the back and asked to speak with Kathy," she said. "Kathy wasn't there."

Addison said as the owner, she is just there to run her business.

"He's not gonna bully me to do it, I mean, make me take the sign out of the window," Addison said.

"She told him that it was his opinion," Seeley said. "But we weren't going to take the sign down."

According to Seeley, Womack, a former Lee County commissioner, said he would discourage people from doing business at the coffee shop unless the sign was removed.

"I was really upset," Addison said. "I couldn't believe that he would do something like that."

Womack said he wanted employees to have the facts and believed the sign could alienate customers.

A response posted on Womack's Facebook page said, "I sincerely believe it is the first amendment right of Kathy's Java Express to put silly signs up in their shop window. And it is also my right to encourage the establishment of a new coffee house in Sanford, one that isn't prone to ill-advised political escapades..."

Addison says that despite the incident, business has been booming at the coffee shop.

"Since this has happened, I have had so many people come in, it has boosted my business," she said.

Addison's daughter filed a police complaint in the case, but authorities say no charges were filed.